Quick Lessons: Giving Up Clutter for Lent, Part Three

A quick post tonight, because I am busy de-cluttering the re-cluttered areas of my house in preparation for guests tomorrow! A few more things I have learned from this process:

  • The process of de-junking one’s life is a discipline just like any other. It requires a sacrifice of time, leisure, and in my case, a personal preference to do anything else other than neatening our living areas. In this regard, it has been a good experience during Lent, a time in which experiencing some sort of sacrifice feels appropriate leading up to Holy Week.
  • But we’ve hit a plateau. We’re barely managing to maintain that small area of space we have de-cluttered; progressing any further will require a significant investment of intentional time and energy. I need to devote an entire day, maybe more, to really start chipping away at other areas of disarray. This makes me think about spiritual growth, and how we often hit those plateaus, then hope that going through the normal motions will propel us further in our relationship with the Lord. But what we actually need is to be carving out more significant time and space to do the work of relationship-building with God that he always desires from us. I can pray and read the Bible every day, but that will just barely keep my spiritual clutter at bay.
  • Clutter is just the first and most superficial level of getting one’s life in order. It’s easy enough to create the appearance of neatness and cleanliness, when your house is actually anything but neat and clean. I can so easily throw junk into a bin and hide it away, which maintains my uncluttered kitchen island, but doesn’t actually address the habits and ongoing messes of my life. How often do we project the appearance of spiritual health and cleanliness, when our secret closets and rooms house more messes than we ever want to show the world? I confess that I do this way more often than I should.
  • Lastly, having the accountability of friends coming over to visit is a wonderful motivator to action. This is a reminder to me that we need the community of God to spur us on to good deeds and help us go a step further in our spiritual lives than we would without that accountability. Most of the time I would rather keep my spiritual life and the failures I experience as a Christian to myself. But I’m reminded that God never intended for us to walk our journeys alone, but to share our struggles and ask for the larger body of believers to provide support, insight, and assistance–if we have the humility to ask.

If I were really courageous, I would let my friends into my office and ask them to help me sort the disaster that it is. Perhaps a baby step for now is asking for help in organizing my junk bin. Every little bit of progress is worth celebrating, as I said in my previous post! (Or check out the first post on this topic here.)

How are you doing with your Lenten disciplines so far and what have you learned? Just remember, it’s 29 days until Easter!

11 Comments on “Quick Lessons: Giving Up Clutter for Lent, Part Three

  1. Helen, All so true – thanks for writing it out so well. I’ll come help sort in your office and then you can come to mine. =) Miss you, clutter or no clutter.

  2. Helen, what a wonderful Lenten discipline. We are blessed to live in a huge 5 bedroom vicarage here in London, which is indeed a gift but can easily become a challenge too, for it can fill up with clutter with seemingly a blink of the eye. I have Swiss/German roots (but Celtic too, which sometime war with each other), so for me I have to take the 15 to 30 minutes each day to tidy up my study before I can get to work. I find that I’m so less weighed down by stuff. I’ve engaged in some personal coaching in the past, and although some of it felt on the New Agey side of things, I did appreciate the insights that clutter can drain your energy. Recently I spent two whole days – yes two whole days – sorting through all the kids’ toys (they are 8 and 4). It was draining and exhausting but now when I look in that corner of the living room, I don’t feel embarrassed or wiped out.

    Just an encouragement to take some of your friends up on their offers (or to ask) to help – even if you just tackle one project in an afternoon, you’ll find that it’s much more fun with someone else and once you get over the embarrassment of things having gotten out of control, then you’ll make huge strides more quickly. Plus, they will keep you on task.

    Love your spiritual applications! Keep on keeping on…

  3. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your reflections on de-cluttering and the spiritual life. What a great discipline for Lent. Two thoughts that it sparked for me are, (1) it’s also important to not go to the opposite extreme and turn the state of your home into the measure of your self-worth as a women, wife, or mom. There will always be some area that isn’t perfectly de-cluttered or organized, and we have to show ourselves some grace for that reality. (2) I agree that having friends over is a wonderful motivator for cleaning. How much more, then, do I appreciate my friends who can come and visit on those not-so-decluttered days. I want my friends to feel comfortable having me over even if things aren’t perfect, and I appreciate those who make me feel that way when they visit.

    God’s peace to you and your readers this Lent!

    Paige

  4. Helen-

    I appreciate your willingness to share your challenge with clutter and that you have taken on this task during Lent! That your whole family is involved is a great opportunity, but also, probably critical to having any success since everyone contributes to it.

    I grew up in a cluttered home and never wanted to keep the tradition. I found it easy to combat while single. But kids make it so much more difficult. That being said, my desk was always a mess, so I can’t blame them. One thing that I have found helpful is an understanding that, for me, clutter represented a couple tendencies in myself: struggle to make decisions and sentimentality. (I actually think the “Hoarders” people helped with defining these (and other) categories. So for me, a stack of mail comes and I see coupons and think “Maybe I should keep this coupon for chimney cleaning and maybe I should send a few dollars to support cause X” and so the piles of maybe’s and should’s begins. Then, the kids make twenty cute projects a week at daycare or there is the birthday cards from each year and I struggle as to which of those need to be preserved and which can go into the trash. Oh, and then there is the “waste not. want not” creedo my father ingrained in us, so every rubber band and pretty shopping bag can be set aside for later use! Sometimes I just have to tell myself that maybe I won’t singlehandedly save the world and just throw a bunch of useful stuff away to be sane.

    Also, sometimes, stuff left laying around is battle ground between my husband and I. Actually, I don’t think he knows I’m having this battle with him. But, the kids will drag stuff out of closets and drawers and I think, “Since when do I, as the mom, have to be the only one picking up after them?!” (They are little but need to start working on them helping more) Anyhow, so I may step over a pile of baking pans for a couple of days, just b/c I feel resentful that I’m the maid to the kids and I (He keeps his own stuff in order).

    I just find that figuring out the motivations for having so mush stuff around to become clutter has helped me immensely to just say no to stuff and keep it under control. I’ve also just started having cleaners come in once a month–it helps on many levels. I’m embarrassed if there is too much stuff for them to move around to clean, I feel I’m not getting my money’s worth if they have to move around too much stuff, it has become somewhat of a reward for doing the work of keeping things in order and it guarantees a reset point for the house being in order.

    Again, I admire your willingness to share your journey in this regard! It’s been interesting to follow your progress and I think a lot of us can relate!

  5. Helen, you are a brave soul for exposing your clutter. You have opened my eyes to the sin of slothfulness and how I have justified it. Thank you. I was surprised when I saw you admit that was a photo of your desk–thought it was mine!

    Well you hit the nail on the head about if you were really courageous you would ask a friend. I have been thinking that lately myself and I just can’t do it. I really need to do this on my own. I am not a self-motivator, but if I do it, I know it will, like you said, be a catalyst for me to keep a grip on it. We have to look for a new house, and I see the clear hardwood floors and long for those and then get saddened actually thinking of living there and how horrible the place would end up. It’s beating me down. I want a new life, a new beginning. Maybe if a dumpster landed in our driveway before we move…

  6. I love the parallels you draw between clutter and spirituality. I help people through this process for a living and had never thought about it in these terms before. So bravo for getting this professional organizer to think on another level!

    I also commend you on bringing in reinforcements. It’s not easy to ask for help, but if you tell them “I’ll help you declutter yours if you help me declutter mine,” I think you’ll find some willing participants.

    But if you continue to be embarrassed about letting your friends see your “real” messes, hire a pro. You can bet that someone who does this for a living has seen worse than your clutter and he/she will be able to help you push beyond that plateau.

    Good luck! You’re in the final stretch!

  7. You are such a good friend to be willing to enter into my clutter. =) Appreciate you and I may very well rope you into that deal! =)

  8. Ah, you’ve hit on some excellent points…if I could just develop greater self-discipline in this area, then the job won’t become so monstrous after being ignored for too long. And you are so right that we need to let others enter into our messes so we don’t have to bear the burdens alone! I am still learning those lessons, definitely, but I am glad you emphasized those ideas because they are right on target!

  9. Paige, absolutely, if I turn the quest for clutter reduction into some sort of legalistic journey, then we will have gained very little. I will definitely address this in the next post! =) Lenten blessings to you!

  10. Laurie, I’m so glad to know I’m not the only cluttered soul around. =) I can totally relate with what you shared as well–I so often think “I am going to need this someday!” and thus starts the stacks of stuff that never go anywhere. But you make a good point, that we have to push ourselves to ask, “WHY do I think I am going to need this someday???” Maybe some of our resistance to throwing stuff away that we should comes from a lack of trust or fear somehow. I’m not quite sure. But you raise some great points and I am now motivated to start culling through my desk clutter! Blessings to you!”

  11. Kimberlee–you can rent dumpsters to help clean out your stuff before you move! We did this for our last move and it was IMMENSELY helpful. I highly recommend it—I think the fact that you are moving is a WONDERFUL opportunity to clear stuff out, start over on a fresh foot, and start creating organization for yourselves right from the start! Good luck with it and don’t be afraid to phone a friend! =)

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